Magazine articles

MycoSole: a sustainable footwear

Text: Emmie Knoester Layout: Rick van Wijk

Where most people see fungus as something nasty, Henrik de Goffau took a different approach during his Final Bachelor Project. He chose mycelium, the network of fibers of a fungus, as central material for his project. How did he come to this unusual approach?

I worked on shoes before in the elective ‘Digital Craftsmanship’ and my
vision is focussed on sustainability. So for my FBP I decided to combine the two and try to make a sustainable production chain of a shoe.

Henrik explains about the production process nowadays in which a product contains lots of different materials, which are being transported all over the world for the many energy consuming steps of fabrication. Besides that, a shoe is not recyclable because of the different materials stuck together; it is not one material which can be reused. “I thought of ways to skip steps in this production process. What if you can go from growing raw materials to the end product in use immediately?”

“I decided to grow mycelium as natural material in a mould and directly form a shoe sole. It is easy to grow and form, easily accessible and is a strong material.” When realising that a mould would maybe contain enough plastic to make a whole shoe out of it he decided to 3D-print it with biodegradable filament. “The mycelium can grow in the 3D-printed mould and stay there when being worn. It gives the sole extra strength and makes it less abrasive.” But why not print the whole sole then? “I want to minimise the use of 3D-printed materials because it is energy and time consuming.”

“The 3D-printing makes it easier to personalise the shoe to the customer which gives the product added value.” Henrik set up a product service system through which customers make a 3D scan of their foot to generate a perfect fit. Besides that, customers can choose the colour of the filament and follow the growth of the so-called ‘MycoSoles’ online, which makes them able to share it with their peers. When the shoes have eventually worn out, they can be buried in your backyard or thrown in the compost bin so they can biodegrade. “I am continuously switching between how to make it and how the customer feels about it. That is what makes it so interesting.”

So what’s next? “My goal at the start of this project was to be able to continue with it after this semester. It is a complex project but I do have some contacts where I maybe want to do an internship to expand my knowledge on this material as a designer. I’m not a biologist but I see it as my task to see the possibilities of such a material and truly make something of it.”

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